11 Apr “Found in Translation”: Discover the Language Behind the Journey to Making a True Italian Garment
Italy: known for delicious food, seductive wine, beautiful infrastructure, and, of course, some of the most amazing garments on the planet.
Having influenced fashion and style all over the western world for decades, Italy has yet to slow down. It’s the birthplace of world-renowned designers: Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, and Versace, amongst many other greats. Some Italian tailors are so skilled they’ve also become famous for what they do. Notable examples include: Boglioli, Luca Rubinacci, and Raffaele Curruso.
So, how did “Italian made” become the reference point for high quality garments?
Well, it can all be Found in Translation.
Let’s look at some Italian tailoring terminology
The Italian language is full of terminology that describes specific features of a garment. These are terms that describe the structure, texture, functionality, and overall fit of a suit. With the terminology translated for us, we can begin to understand the language behind authentic Italian tailoring and the history of how a true Italian garment is created.
Italian tailoring, after all, takes perfecting a garment to another level.
Statura is the “stature” of the person wearing the garment. It can be broad, narrow, tall, short, etc.. For example, depending on the individual’s statura, there should be more or less padding installed into the garment to keep his body in flattering proportions.
Similarly, misura (“measurements”) is just as important when it comes to tailoring a garment, as is the tessuto, or “fabric”, and sifilata, or “string” used in the stitching of a jacket or button.
Scye (pronounced “sigh”), in layman’s terms, is… an armhole. Sounds too simple? Well, there’s more to it. When positioned properly, the armscye of a jacket should be at a high enough point to improve the wearer’s posture, as well as to keep his range of motion within the jacket itself.
Spalla camicia or “shirt sleeve” is a distinct bunching within the shoulder seams of a jacket (grinze, also called “shiring” by the Brits, is a similar term and means a ruffling of the shirt sleeve). The spalla camicia is created when a larger sleeve head is inserted into a smaller chest piece. Imagine you had two pieces of paper of differing sizes, and the length of the longest one has to fit the shortest. The appearance would be similar to a ruffle. This distinct feature allows for a greater range of motion within the arms.
The spalla camicia today is viewed as somewhat of a status symbol within the tailoring world, just as one would notice a particular designer handbag. Construction of the spalla camicia is only found on very high-end, ready-to-wear products or within Neapolitan bespoke. Please note that this cannot be done by a sewing machine – only by hand. Be aware of this when purchasing lower price point suits, as these can sometimes come with poor craftsmanship while still using high-end tailoring terms.
Suit: Ring Jacket
Other Italian terminology we will be expanding on in future posts includes (not all are Italian words, but have been created by Italians):
- The Neapolitan shoulder: Meant to look like a shirt sleeve. The shoulder of the jacket is meant to have a natural appearance by having no padding whatsoever within it. The Neapolitan shoulder follows the general lines of the wearer’s shoulders; it’s both comfortable and elegant.
- The Roman shoulder: Unlike its counterpart above, the Roman shoulder takes cues from armour. In similar fashion to British tailoring, the Roman shoulder is slightly built up in its appearance, much like a military uniform. The armhole within this style is built deeper than the Neapolitan shoulder. This in addition to a soft chest piece allows for increased movement for the wearer.
- Con rollino: A variation of the Neapolitan shoulder style. The con rollino is much narrower in appearance. Similar to the spalla camicia, the con rollino has a ruffled look to the shoulder. The fabric will slightly rise from the seam and then fall into the sleeve, resulting in an elegant, rope-like appearance on the shoulder.
- Giacca: A blazer or suit jacket.
- Pantaloni: A pant, which may be on its own or part of an abito (see below).
- Abito: A suit.
- Abito camicia: A dress shirt.
- Cravatta: A neck-tie.
- Piega: A pleat or crease.
- Risvolto: The lapels of a jacket.
- Cassure: A breakage in the lapel, which can be due to one’s shoulders being too large. The breakage causes a fold in the lapel when the jacket is fastened.
- Doppio petto: A double-breasted jacket.
Individually these terms are only a small piece of the puzzle. A true Italian garment takes all of the puzzle pieces and combines them into a garment that not only fits properly, but also helps enhance the wearer’s appearance and maximizes its functionality.
And that, friends, is some Italian 101.
*Cover image courtesy of Mr. Porter.